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Gonzo Judaism: A Bold Path for Renewing an Ancient Faith Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 5, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Though born out of the "world of gonzo," rife with indignation, agitation, cynicism and a "biting urge to revolt," this book delivers such a soulful commentary that it could just as easily be called "Judaism Unplugged." Like musicians who return to the roots of their profession and play without electronica, Rabbi Goldstein, founding rabbi of the New Shul in Manhattan, reminds readers—whether they are new seekers or lapsed practitioners of Judaism—to confirm their knowledge of the "nuts and bolts" of their tradition before wistfully seeking the mystical. "Judaism, when presented in its best and most authentic light, doesn't coddle—it confronts," he says. Similarly, the rabbi pulls no punches, but manages to do so with the easy style of a coffeehouse conversation. Using a combination of Jewish history and personal anecdotes, he offers a wide range of alternative ways to explore Judaism individually or in small groups, if large congregations are not appealing. The extensive resource list that includes congregations, organizations and recommended reading promises to serve readers of all ages. With this edgy, funny, wise book, Goldstein may just have found a way to ensure the survival of the religion for another 6,000 years. (Sept.)[See the July 12 issue of Religion BookLine for an interview with Rabbi Goldstein.]
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"Goldstein backs up the title ['Gonzo Judaism'] with a legitimately creative and irreverent idea about how to engage with Judaism anew: Look to the old....This is clearly one promising rabbi: He has equal knowledge of (and appreciation for) both ancient tradition and contemporary life." -- The Washington Post Book World, October 1, 2006

"Rabbi Goldstein has written a 'Fear and Loathing on the Torah Trail' that's kick-ass but also wise and full of good ideas for what ails American Judaism. He shows that the greatest reverence can come from irreverence." -- Newsweek

"Rabbi Niles Goldstein, the decorated founder of Greenwich Village's alternative synagogue, The New Shul, considers ['Gonzo Judaism'] a wake-up call for Jews. He hopes that his advice--that Jews should reclaim their rebel roots and adapt their religion to better suit themselves--will appeal to 'the disaffected Jew who feels little connection with Judaism or with Jewish institutional life, and is more comfortable watching The Daily Show than going to services on Friday nights.' Goldstein calls this more of a manifesto: 'It is both my kiss, and my kick in the ass, to the contemporary Jewish community and its leadership.'" -- Kirkus Reviews [Special Issue: Best Religion and Spirituality Books of 2006], November 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312352271
  • ASIN: B0048BPGEC
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,581,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Niles Elliot Goldstein is a rabbi and the award-winning author or editor of nine books. He served as the founding rabbi and spiritual leader of The New Shul in Manhattan's Greenwich Village for over a decade (1999-2009), and he is now the vice president for creative content at Edelman, the world's largest PR agency. Niles has written for Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications, and he has been featured in Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and other national venues, as well as on radio and television. Niles served as a U.S. Army chaplain and for the past 15 years has worked with the federal law enforcement community. His passion for adventure travel has taken him from the steppes of Central Asia and Mongolia to the dog mushing trails of Alaska and the Arctic. To unwind, Niles hikes, rides horses, and practices the martial arts (he holds a black belt in karate). Niles lectures all over the country and speaks on various topics in the areas of spirituality and religion. He currently lives in Chicago, Illinois with his dog Jake.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Iastreb on November 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Goldstein's title is well-chosen. "Gonzo Judaism" is to religion and ethics what Hunter Thompson was to real, investigative journalism. Here, one finds provocation and interjection ("damn it!" on nearly every other page), but little in the way of a vision of what Judaism should be, why it deserves to survive, and what role it should play in the world of the 21st century and beyond.

Much of what Goldstein has to say about renewing Judaism is true. Today, its rituals are mind-numbingly boring and lacking in passion, while most (usually self-proclaimed) spokespeople for the Jewish community (e.g. Abe Foxman) are whiny disciplinarians. Judaism (and Jewish culture) could use the energy infused from retreats and extreme sports, a reexamination of lost rituals and the tribal notion of community.

Unfortunately, that's all Goldstein has to offer. Although he rightly calls for a middle ground between passionate commitment and intellectual openness, this offering, is, in practice, decidedly anti-intellectual. One searches the book in vain for any sort of argument about why "ethical monotheism" is worth preserving. Goldstein simply assumes that the product sells itself, if sold properly. He does not comment on the broad, secularizing trend of the last several centuries (a trend that transcends Judaism), nor on the fact that Jews are among the most secular groups in the world today. He merely asserts that a recommitment of Jews to Judaism and the Jewish tradition is a worthy goal in its own right. Perhaps Goldstein has a more profound answer, but he does not see fit to share it with his readers here. Furthermore, Goldstein has nothing to say about the role of Jews and Judaism in the contemporary era.
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Format: Kindle Edition
An interesting take on the authors perceived problems with modern Judaism. It would have been nice for him to go deeper into the topic, rather than just present his frustration. There were a few solutions, but a more in depth analysis would be good.
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By Susan E. Cohen on January 5, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Wonderful book for any who question where or if they fit into modern Judaism. Reminder of what I love most about my faith and an inspiration to become involved again.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By lucas on May 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
But this book is amazing, it really get's you excited and involved in the ideas of the revitalization of Judaism without losing the context of traditionalism or base Torah concepts. I think many of his ideas are exciting and energizing, even if you don't fully agree with him, you can't help but start to delve deeper into your own spiritual practice by realizing that it's still applicable in this day and age.
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